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Just how big a deal IS Dallas Black Dance Theatre?

by Jerome Weeks 2 Dec 2021 7:40 PM

A recent survey says it’s the ninth largest modern dance troupe in the US – that’s AHEAD of Pilobolus. So . . . guess who’s also on the list?


In terms of budget expenses, the biggest, modern and/or contemporary dance company in the US is, not surprisingly, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. It’s followed by such notable names as Mark Morris and Bill T. Jones.

But among the top 10, according to the Dance Data Project, is Dallas Black Dance Theatre. The yardstick for this list is each group’s annual expenses for 2019, the latest year for which figures were available. So this ranking really isn’t about acclaim or even audience draw (although they obviously figure in).

It’s a significant measurement, nonetheless, because those top 10 companies collectively spent 68% of all fifty budgets.

Dallas Black Dance Theatre’s Black on Black runs Dec. 3-4 and is sold out but is available for online streaming. The company’s Academy Espresso Nutcracker has one performance, Dec. 10. Texas Ballet Theater’s Nutcracker continues at the Winspear Opera House, Dec. 3-5, and at Bass Hall, Dec. 10-26

In short, one-fifth of the companies spent more than two-thirds of all the money in modern professional dance in the US. That total figure is around $150 million. And Alvin Ailey — alone — accounts for 30 percent of that.

In stark contrast, America’s ballet companies had a collective budget of $664 million. That’s half a billion more than modern dance. So the tutu and The Nutcracker still rule — by a wide margin. In that classical list, the Texas Ballet Theater is included at #18 (only one rank above Austin Ballet) and, interestingly, the DBDT is also listed at #42. The DBDT, along with Alvin Ailey, Hubbard Street and the LA Dance Project, are the few companies to be included on both lists.

Speaking of The Nutcracker, the DBDT is presenting its Academy Espresso Nutcracker for a single performance Dec. 11, and the Texas Ballet Theater’s Nutcracker will continue in Dallas this weekend as well, and in Fort Worth next weekend.

Texas Ballet Theater’s “The Nutcracker.” Photo courtesy of Texas Ballet Theater.

The DBDT and the Texas Ballet Theater are not the only modern dance and ballet companies in North Texas to be ranked among the top 50 in the US. But only one other troupe is: Bruce Wood Dance comes in at #41 in the top modern dance companies.

It shows how thin dance remains in North Texas that the DDP includes an auxiliary list of the next 70 plus ballet companies they surveyed but did not include in the final results — and there isn’t a single North Texas company anywhere. Only one Texas company appears at all: the San Antonio Ballet.

The DDP began as an independent effort to investigate the lack of new female choreographic works, and it’s expanded its data collection from that original focus. But the new reports are worth going through because they still have revealing nuggets of information about demographics: Among current directors of the leading modern dance companies, for instance, the gender balance is exactly 50-50. But among the top 10, the ratio is 55% women, 45% men.

One of those, of course, is DBDT’s Melissa Young.